UCSB shows model rooms for controversial housing project
UCSB recently led the News-Press on a tour of model rooms for its proposed Munger Hall — a student housing project that led to a protest last fall on campus and inspired national headlines because of its lack of windows.
While the national firestorm has largely died down, locals and students alike have continued to condemn the project, which is in part financed by a $200 million grant from billionaire Charles Munger. The grant was given on the condition that the university maintain the design of the building that was submitted by Mr. Munger.
One of the most widely-chastised features is the lack of windows.
Most of the building’s single-occupancy bedrooms (referred to as “pods” by the university) will not have any windows. Instead, the building will receive light from artificial sources that are programmed to replicate the light outside — meaning they will automatically change in appearance based on the lighting outside.
Plans call for Munger Hall to be located on 3 acres near Harder Stadium. It is designed to house 4,500 students.
The housing project is awaiting approval from the UC Board of Regents.
The News-Press visited a replica site for model rooms on Los Carneros Road in Goleta, which is intended to serve as a staging area for the project during construction.
One of the first model rooms the News-Press toured at this warehouse was one of Munger Hall’s single-occupancy bedrooms, which UCSB calls “pods.”
The News-Press instantly noticed one of the artificial light producers in the room. The light emitted from a false window that was positioned at a higher point than where a window would usually appear.
The second false window — which was positioned on an exterior wall — was initially mistaken by this writer for a real window.
While a drawn shade covering masked the false window’s appearance, the light that emitted from it appeared as natural lighting given the time of day.
Each pod is located in a suite that contains a total of eight pods. The building will feature eight “houses,” which will contain eight suites for a total of 64 residents per house. Each suite, in addition to the eight pods, also contains a common area featuring a sink, two refrigerators, counterspace, a table with seating for eight and a TV.
While each pod — which contained a bed, desk and storage space — were certainly tight quarters, the space was on average larger than an individual would get were they in one of the triple-occupancy rooms that have come to define undergraduate living at UCSB.
The replica suite itself, which the model pod and seven others were nestled in, seemed to feature adequate space, especially with a relatively large and well-lit kitchenette space opening up the galley-like suite and making it seem larger than it is.
In addition to containing eight of these suites, each house will have a large common area that will feature long, communal tables for eating or studying, multiple TVs, seating arrangements including couches and chairs, recreation space, and a communal kitchen.
The communal kitchen features four ovens and ranges, four refrigerators (this is in addition to the two refrigerators located in each suite), four dishwashers, sinks, multiple microwaves and ample counter space for preparing food.
In addition to the other amenities, each house’s communal space will feature a wall of bonafide windows letting in natural light for those who need a break from the artificial light boxes in their room.
On the top floor of the proposed Munger Hall will be a market and restaurant operated by the university, gym facilities, dedicated study spaces and multiple offices that can be utilized for a number of purposes such as hosting mental wellness counselors and other university services. Replicas of these spaces were not constructed and therefore unavailable to tour.
Munger Hall is an effort by UCSB to fulfill the need to construct sufficient student housing and relieve pressure on surrounding real estate markets. It comes at a time when the city of Goleta and Santa Barbara County have sued UCSB over what the local governments call the university’s failure to provide sufficient housing.
The county and UCSB are currently in negotiations.